Work rant

Over the last 2 years, I have had the thought of quitting work more often than ever. And I have also wondered why I feel the way I do. Is it the work itself? Is it the folks at work? Is it the stress? Is it the fact that it eats into my time with Zo? Is it the people around me making sad, sorry faces when I tell them I work?

I don’t have an answer. I guess it is way too many things together that give this feeling. Yes, so I have started feeling this way a lot more since Zo came, and definitely more since she grew up a bit. But it’s not the only reason. It is the general attitude of people towards work.

I have spent 12 years in a relatively ‘less stressful industry’, as they like to call themselves. But I cannot think of one month, or day when I was completely off work, mentally. It doesn’t work that way for me as an individual. But unfortunately, those are things only I am aware of.

The great Indian working scenario, I believe is still sarkaari at heart. I also find the analogy extremely offensive because the folks who define sarkaari as a bunch of seat warmers who will leave when the clock strikes 5, are pretty much doing the same thing today; albeit in larger MNCs with better air conditioning. Maybe not as much 9 to 5, as 11 to 8, or 12 to 9 – only now this is the timing of choice because who can get up and rush to work so early anyway? Also, the plethora of entertainment options at work – ranging from online shopping to social media to Youtube videos means that they can hang around for even longer hours -10,12,14, and do exactly what they would have done back home, only there will be no one nagging in the background to lend a hand in the kitchen.

Slowly being at the workplace becomes the definition of hard work, rather than getting work done. And God forbid you fall in the latter category, because then, you are destined to be deemed as average.

I have a life beyond work, I always have. I was quite proud of it, still am. But as I grow up the ladder, this seems like an odd thing to accept. Doesn’t matter if I am dot on time to work, have lunch at my desk, skip tea and have my calendar blocked continuously through the 9 hours; just so that I am done on time. Doesn’t matter if I do all that I am expected to and even more, just because I know that I will be one of the few folks who will leave when it strikes 7 to go home.

Go home for those little things that matter just as much, if not more than work. Like checking Zo’s homework, or reading with her, or reading for myself, watching a TV show with the Dude. But no, it seems to amaze people that I want to do these things, and not hang around chatting a bit more because you know, networking? Apparently, how can you expect to grow if you are not giving it your everything?

Thing is, I cannot give work my ‘everything’ because it is not my ‘everything’. It will never be. I refuse to make work the most important thing in my life, at most give it a sort of low position in the top 5, but nothing more. And the more vocal I get about it, the more hurt I get in the process. This is where the Indian-ness of the people comes across, because I have worked with folks in the west, and there everyone – men and women, seem to think the priority is to get your work done and head to your family. Here, eh, not so much. Here, having an hour long tea break takes precedence over wanting to help your kid with homework, because your wife will do that.

And whatever I do to make up for it is not enough. Doesn’t matter if I am taking calls every day after Zo goes to sleep, because well you left office on time right? Doesn’t matter if I take up more projects than any other damn person because, well, you won’t come for the sports event on Saturday right? Doesn’t matter if I come in early so I can leave on time, because well the others work from 2 to 11, so they can’t be expected to stretch right? Eventually it’s about how you have taken a call to not grow beyond a point by being restrictive in the time you spend sitting at your work desk.

I try not to think of it but it is true. Companies on paper these days are much more flexible, but what goes on in the heads of those you work with is best known to them only, and no policy, no ‘best place to work’ ranking , no mention in the ‘list of most women friendly organization’ fixes this. Once they have made up their mind that the person will always do less than the others because she needs to go home, there is no looking back.

Like I said, it sucks, and it makes me very unhappy. It makes all versions of me sad for being made to feel not good enough – the professional, the mother, the wife, the individual. And I have absolutely no idea how I can get out of this rut, except for maybe wish for a miracle.

23 thoughts on “Work rant

  1. I hear you!

    I still remember the day my colleague commented “Half day?” when I got up to leave at 5pm. After coming to work at 8AM. That I leave by 5-530 PM was also documented and highlighted in my appraisal form. That’s the day I decided to quit the corporate structure.

    Unfortunately, things are not much different as a freelancer now. No one understands that one may have a life beyond work.

    The Indian work conditions and attitude of most employers and employees are deplorable. But we live. And we learn.

    Hang in there, girl! Hugs.

    1. It is so disheartening, isn’t it? More is the patronizing tone with which they supposedly ‘understand’ that your family is priority. I have started getting very blunt with folks who come to me with work when I am packing up, and ask them to meet me at 9 in the morning, knowing very well they wont.

      Also, it sucks to know it doesn’t get better with freelancing as well!

  2. So well written, DI. You have spoken what’s been on the minds of so many women.
    It’s a culture issue for sure. I don’t claim to be super-efficient, but most times, in the time I spend at work, I do more. That never gets highlighted – what gets highlighted is that we leave early. Even if we come in early. And you are so right – this will not change with flexible timings and Great places to work awards. Even after you are home, it’s almost taken for granted that if a mail comes in or a random request for a ppt comes in, you will honour it. You will leave aside everything you want to do at home and do this instead. This is completely different from the West – there you leave your work in the office. Noone attends calls after they leave work.

    I am also afraid this won’t change anytime soon. :-/

    1. Exactly. If you start clocking ‘productive’ hours against hours at the desk, one would know the facts. And I feel the situation is fully utilized by folks who don’t feel the need to go home. Heck, I have had a guy ask me why would he go home to hear bawling kids when he can earn brownie points by hanging around at work. Tough, tough world 😦

  3. Wonderfully put. It’s baffling how many biases people carry for someone wanting to have a life beyond work. ‘Coz the wife will spend time with the kids homework’ – the day this changes the whole world will.

    1. It is shocking how many people think life beyond work means no work, or no importance to work. Do the folks who don’t spend any time with family technically not care for the family? I am sure if we state the vice versa, a lot of egos will be hurt.

  4. SC

    My husband and I live and work for MNCs in the US and we both worked for different MNCs in India for a few years. This is the sole reason we have decided to never work in a MNC set up in India if we ever move back. You’ve totally hit the nail on the head. I was never the kind of person who made my work my life and until recently, I used to admire people who gave their everything for their job. Now, while I don’t resent them, I no longer admire them because I know that they are giving up on personal growth and family time when they do that. Also, I would probably respect someone like a doctor or a person in public service dedicating their life to their work because their work directly improves people’s lives. Most corporate jobs involve doing additional work that only add to a company’s coffers. I’m sure many people will beg to differ on that :).

    BTW, I’m a long-time creeper and love your blog!

    1. Bingo! I absolutely admire folks who have given everything to the society too. The question is at what cost. I had a situation recently where our CSR group was visiting some schools to teach on weekends. I have done this in the past and love it, it’s a beautiful feeling. But this time, I had to say no. They asked me if I didn’t care about the kids. I had to say that I have a kid back home, who I am not able to care for enough thanks to the company. So I need to do that first. Also, if the company wants me to care, why wouldn’t it arrange for this on a weekday, so that I don’t have to take time off my family for it. Not taken very well, I have to tell you.
      Also, welcome, glad you left a comment! 🙂

  5. Sri

    DI, this is the case everywhere…i have realised that staying late is considered being “dedicated” to your work..this is compounded further by a workaholic boss (female) who also stays late because her daughter is married and there is no hurry to reach home..her in-laws and husband manage the household chores..

    Commenting on your blog after a long time..this is Sri..Oviya’s mom..and btw Oviya has a little sister Laya now..

    1. Hi Sri! Long time! So lovely to know of Laya 🙂 You should write again and keep us updated.
      Workaholic bosses are very tough too – I feel they make you guiltier still 🙂 But if they are at a stage of life where they can afford to do it, I let it be. I give credit to people who are at work working full time too, it is a choice they make. I have trouble accepting sitting around for tea as work.

  6. “Eventually it’s about how you have taken a call to not grow beyond a point by being restrictive in the time you spend sitting at your work desk.” This made me really sad and angry coz it is today’s reality. After one point, women stop being ambitious because of all the baggage it comes with. That is unfair.

  7. So well-written. I wonder at the way you are made to feel guilty even if you think about maintaining a work-life balance. Its as if you are not worthy enough to work if you are not willing to give your everything to work. A big reason of my switch from corporate to academics was because I thought this world would be a lot more understanding. Unfortunately, I found out it is not so. struggling with these thoughts often now!!

      1. ok, I must clarify..I am in the PhD student phase now and life is no different..but everyone tells me that after I complete and become a professor, then things would become like I had imagined 🙂 Going by my experience though, I have become sceptical..Wish you the best..

  8. I came here after a long time and I have to comment on this one. It really irritates me no end when people think staying for more hours actually means putting in more hours. Sometimes it becomes inevitable but everyday? I used to leave around 5 or 6 no matter what anyone said. I did take calls from home. And I don’t understand the concept of having team outings on weekends. I am not picking team building activities over spending time with family or myself. Family, friends and me-time should be very important things for everyone. At least more than a corporate job.

  9. You know my thoughts on this – my heart sinks as i read your post because i know how you feel and i fear that very few women actually find the perfect solution to this. One which lets their heart & wallets feel happy!

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